Victor Sawden Pritchett (PRIHCH-iht) was a master of the short story. He was born near London of lower-middle-class parents. Owing to his father’s lack of business sense, the family moved constantly from house to house, from one set of relatives to another. The father, who usually worked as a traveling salesman, dominated his undernourished wife and children, and his conversion to Christian Science caused frequent family quarrels. At school, Pritchett was a mediocre student except in shorthand, French, and German. His hopes of attending a university were shattered when, just before his sixteenth birthday, he was abruptly taken out of school and made an apprentice in the leather trade. His long-smoldering ambition to become a writer led him to abandon his job and move to France in 1921.
In Paris Pritchett lived meagerly and mingled with modest working people. In his leisure he walked indefatigably, read voraciously, and tried to write. Eventually he had some articles accepted by The Christian Science Monitor, which could not pay him because of its financial troubles in Boston. After nearly starving to death, Pritchett returned to England. The newspaper’s London editor promptly sent him to Ireland to write a series of articles on the civil war. Since he knew nothing about politics, he indulged his passions for the countryside, the theater, and Irish poets. As a correspondent, he was later sent to North Africa and the United States.
After being dismissed by The Christian Science Monitor and returning to London in the late 1920’s, Pritchett resolved to walk across...
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Victor Sawden Pritchett was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, of middle-class parents. His father, Walter, a Yorkshireman, espoused a strict Congregationalism. He married Beatrice of London, whom he had met when both worked in a draper’s shop. Enthralled by wild business schemes, Walter often left his family for months as he pursued dreams that shattered and left the family destitute, forcing it into innumerable moves and frequent sharing of flats with relatives. Often a traveling salesman, Pritchett’s father, despite his long absences, caused the family unmitigated misery when he returned. Pritchett’s dictatorial father is reflected in many of his stories and novels, and Pritchett is completely frank in his autobiography about his father’s brutality.
Most remarkable, Pritchett received only the barest of formal training at Alleyn’s Grammar School, which he left when he was only sixteen to enter the leather trade. Clever with languages, he soon showed proficiency in French. He read omnivorously. In his stories, he reflects a cerebral ability, perceptiveness, and imagism. Despite his lack of formal training in literature, he is, in the twentieth century, considered to be one of the best writers of the short story in England. In 1975, he was knighted as Sir Victor for his contributions to literature.
After working in the leather trade for several years as a tanner, he left for a two-year interlude in Paris. Those years as a tanner were fruitful, he has declared, for he encountered all classes of people in England, a factor noted in his short stories, depicting the monied aristocrats and the working classes, together with the middle classes that he fixes in amber. In Paris, he worked in a photography shop as clerk and letter writer but soon wearied of the routines and determined to become a writer. His connection with The Christian Science Monitor became the key transitional phase, for he wrote and published for this newspaper a series of articles. When there was no longer a need for these articles written in Paris, The Christian Science Monitor sent him to Ireland, where the civil war raged. Pritchett soaked up experiences from his wide travels as he journeyed from Dublin to Cork,...
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